One year ago, Mark Hominick (20-10) was soaring at the apex of his decade-long MMA career. The baby-faced veteran had capped off a 5-fight roll with a resonating beatdown of George Roop and the 1st-round TKO elevated him to the #1 contender slot for a crack at featherweight monarch Jose Aldo's belt.
In the co-main event of UFC 129, the wily Canadian kickboxer scratched and clawed his way through 5 rounds with the menacing champion. Hominick emerged from the war with a lopsided cranium and a hard-fought decision loss, but also with a newfound respect from fight fans for giving the seemingly invincible champion his toughest title defense to date.
Hard times would follow. Shawn Thompkins, Hominick's longtime coach and mentor, would tragically pass away in August of 2011. Coming in as a ridiculous favorite against the electric Chan Sung Jung at UFC 140, Hominick uncharacteristically over-commited on his first combination and was clocked by "The Korean Zombie" for a disheartening 7-second knockout loss. The consecutive defeats removed Hominick from the immediate title race and he fell out of the top-ten in the consensus world rankings.
On the main card of UFC 145: Jones vs. Evans
Complete analysis in the full entry.
Yagin's career stems back to the first day of the new millennium, where he kicked off what would become a flawless 8-piece roll on January 1st of 2000. Competing at lightweight, the Honolulu native spent the bulk of his efforts in Hawaii's SuperBrawl promotion and quickly gained support from the locals for rising up quickly in just 2 years. Not unlike Hominick, the good times suddenly gave way to an upsurge of adversity.
Graduating from unknown talent to a legitimate and undefeated prospect, Yagin was thrust into a series of match ups against a heightened level of competition. Multiple-time BJJ world champion Vitor Ribeiro worked his magic and submitted Yagin with a 2nd-round arm triangle for his first taste of defeat -- though it would not be his last. The Ribeiro loss triggered the first of a winless 4-fight skid: former UFC lightweights Joe Jordan (decision) and Rich Clementi (TKO) topped Yagin with a draw against David Yeung sandwiched in between.
After facing Clementi in 2004, Yagin's appearances dwindled and he would compete just 8 times in the next 7 years, though the idle schedule was not without luster. Yagin dropped down to featherweight, won 7 of his 8 bouts and scored featherweight championships in Hawaii's X-1 promotion and Tachi Palace Fights. The sole defeat in that sequence was dealt by another former UFCer in Diego Saraiva, who stopped Yagin in the 3rd by TKO. The slow and steady resurrection earned Yagin a shot int he Octagon, where he fell short against Junior Assuncao by decision.
The Match Up
Hominick is one of the most respected technicians in MMA. "The Machine" is a fundamentally sound kickboxer and grappler with a vast arsenal. Standing, his stance, defense, footwork and use of angles are all phenomenal and he's a quick and agile athlete as well. He officially broke the mold as a striking specialist when he floored Yves Edwards with a knee and tied on a triangle choke at UFC 58 and now boasts a balanced finishing ratio of 8 TKOs and submissions apiece. Hominick is most comfortable bouncing on his toes in a stand-up duel, where few can match his high-level jousting.
Yagin, a brown belt in BJJ, is equally rounded with an even 5 wins by TKO, submission and decision. 4 of his 5 submissions are guillotine chokes and he showed he was fully capable on the mat with Assuncao, a black belt. Yagin's intent is generally to play a patient counter striking game on the feet. With a closed stance, he keeps his heavy right hand loaded up while pawing with a "feeler jab" and seeking openings. Yagin is extremely calculating and methodical to the point of suffering from complacency. He tends to match his opponent's output, so when Assuncao was equally cautious in Yagin's last showing, the crowd voiced their discontent loudly.
Hominick will enjoy 3" of height on Yagin (5'8" vs. 5'5") but Yagin slightly exceeds his reach length (68.5" vs. 69") and will be more robust. Yagin's clinch and takedown defense are decent, but Assuncao was able to use his timing and quickness to take him down in their encounter. Unless Yagin changes up his strategy and shoots more takedowns than usual, this should be a case of Hominick's smooth kickboxing artistry versus Yagin's brawling style of counter punching.
Yagin's tendency to be hesitant on the feet does not bode well against Hominick, who will gladly trade barbs in a striking match and likely dictate the pace with his quickness and volume. Yagin does have tremendous power and the ability catch Hominick when the Canadian is wheeling low kicks from outside or cutting a variety of angles with his close-range boxing, but it's hard to argue with the dramatic -600 betting odds that favor "The Machine." After tangling with the elite-echelon adversaries throughout his career, this is as close as it gets to a big juicy meatball down the center of the plate for Hominick.
My Prediction: Mark Hominick by decision.